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Students say Riley tax plan will help them

Four seniors at Demopolis High School say most people don’t understand the benefits for education that Gov. Riley’s tax plan would offer. "Some people are making a big drama out of (the tax increases), and they really don’t know what’s going on," said Elizabeth Barger.

Barger, Megan McKnight, Mallory Mason, and Reggious Bell spoke Thursday about the affect proration had on their education and their views on Riley’s tax and accountability program. All four students are part of a leadership class at the school, and all were in favor of Riley’s plan.

McKnight, whose parents are both in education, was particularly pleased that the plan would fund the Alabama Reading Initiative. "That’s a big part of our school," she said.

The students were also very positive about the college scholarships that will be provided through the plan. "Kids that have good GPA’s (grade point averages) who might not normally be able to go to college will have free tuition," McKnight said.

All agreed the chance of a scholarship would make students work harder. "I know my cousin in Georgia went to college from the Hope scholarship (program)," McKnight said. "I know that if I could get free tuition I would definitely be working to get it."

The scholarship program would "push parents to get more involved and make sure their children are learning more so they can have the higher GPA," Barger said.

Bell said the grade average students would need to make for the scholarship should be obtainable, and the morale of students whose family could then afford college would certainly be improved.

The morale of teachers would also improve, the seniors said, as more students would have an opportunity for college.

The plan would also provide adequate funding for textbooks and office and instructional supplies. "The teachers are saying that they are going to get the supplies they need," McKnight said. "…It’s kind of become a joke, when we’re like, ‘okay, write this down because we don’t have the paper to print it for you.

Class sizes will be smaller, Barger said. Currently, "you can’t get the one-on-one help that you need," she said.

The subject of textbooks brought laughs from the students. "Let me tell you about my history book," McKnight said. "It fell apart; the cover came off. We just got to the point I couldn’t keep it together in my book bag so my teacher just ripped out the chapter that I would need."

The textbooks are several years old, they said; some held together with duct tape or the pages are sticking together. "I’m seeing like names of kids (written in the book) that have graduated and they’re up in college."

In the calculus class, the textbooks have to be kept at school because there are not enough for students to take home, Barger said.

Photocopies of new material have to be given out to supplement the older textbooks. "Sometimes they can’t Xerox them because they don’t have enough paper," Barger said, so the students have to copy from a transparency. The lack of paper for photocopy machines was the first taste of the lack of school funding these seniors experienced when they were in the seventh or eighth grade.

The seniors said their teachers have gotten used to dealing with the problems. "They want better," Bell said. "They do what they can and just go from there," Mason said.

Teachers have to buy their own supplies or school clubs raise money for supplies, they said. "I didn’t know that teachers had to buy that much until my own sister became a teacher,’ Bell said.

The seniors were dismayed at the school supplies such as soap and cleaning supplies the students have to bring to school.

People in Demopolis are very supportive of their public schools, and the seniors felt that Riley’s plan would help school systems in the surrounding counties. "If it doesn’t pass a bunch of schools are going to have to close," Mason said.

Bell’s cousin goes to school in Linden, and he sees a big difference in the textbooks. "They’re a lot older compared to ours," he said.

How will the tax plan affect your family? "I don’t see how my family’s taxes would go up too much," McKnight said. "The tax seems to be targeting people who make more money than what two teachers are going to make."

Bell said his grandmother is overwhelmed by all the commercials for and against the plan on television. "Right now she’s leaning for it," he said. "When I tell her about the scholarship opportunities, that would really help me because she can’t afford to put me through college, and my older sisters can’t afford it."

All four students felt the governor’s plan featured a more fair tax, which puts the burden on the wealthy and out-of-state businesses and landowners.